General Secretary

December 2010 | 08.12.2010

Health and Safety for POA Members

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Approaching Christmas, most POA members will be wondering what the New Year will bring. With so much negativity after the Comprehensive Spending Review even the most optimistic are shaking their heads in disbelief.

Efficiency savings year on year are something that our members, irrespective of where they work, have had to endure over a significant period of time. We have all heard the buzz words from the employer to justify cuts. Such phrases as “more for less” and “we need to be more flexible in our working arrangements”. The POA needs to adopt its own buzz words going into 2011, using such phrases as “health and safety” and “enough is enough” on budget cuts.

The bravery of prison officers

You simply cannot put a price or value on human life. It is too valuable. Over the past year we have all witnessed violence at establishment level and we were extremely fortunate that there was no loss of life. Who will forget the awful incidents at HMP Frankland where our members were viciously attacked? Also, the incidents at Leeds, Moorland, Warren Hill and Stoke Heath to name just a few. Not a day goes by when our members are not assaulted in the execution of their duties and no-one seems to care.

Our members were rightly incensed when Suma Chakrabarti failed to recognise that brave prison officers were assaulted during the disturbances at Moorland and Warren Hill. I cannot believe that he thinks so little of staff that he fails to mention them in a key message. Politicians and senior civil servants need to wake up and realise that our members are not punch bags, they make up a professional body of people doing an exceptional, highly skilled job on behalf of society and it is time we insisted on that recognition. Quite frankly, it is now time to re-affirm our position that “enough is enough” regarding the assaults on our members and if the employer and politicians are not going to take the Health & Safety of their employees seriously then this Union within its policies adopted from annual conference must. Politicians must be reminded at every opportunity that our Health & Safety is important. They are not dealing with some components in a factory. When implementing cuts they are gambling with our lives and those in our charge.

Not a day goes by where our members are not assaulted in the execution of their duties and no-one seems to care.

Every member must join the campaign

Campaigning will become extremely important in opposing the cuts that could affect our Health & Safety. We will need to roll up our sleeves and fight. No one will give us anything on a plate. We need every POA member to campaign for their futures. Simple things are effective such as writing to your Member of Parliament or visiting them in their surgeries. If they don’t hear from us they will not care. Attending rallies and getting more involved with trades councils and building alliances locally with other trade unions are equally important.

TUS mass rally

The TUC will be having a mass rally on 26th March 2011 in London. This will bring all trade unions together along with community groups in opposition to the cuts identified within the Comprehensive Spending Review. The POA will be making arrangements on a national basis and we hope thousands of members will be in attendance. Public sector workers are under attack from this Government. POA members did not cause the global recession yet we are having our pensions attacked and pay freezes imposed. Having changes to terms and conditions imposed, such as the abolition of the Civil Service Appeal Board and changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme make it cheaper to make individuals redundant. Market testing public sector prisons, brings the threat to close some prisons and sell our jobs off to the private sector. We as a Union have no choice but to oppose these draconian cuts in order to protect our family’s welfare. Campaigning effectively and having clear messages within a strategy organised by the POA NEC for each member to deliver, will be essential to being successful. Members of Parliament feel vulnerable when they have a small majority, we need to target them and demand their support.

Protecting our jobs

Over the last few months I have attended functions and rallies at every opportunity around the country to oppose the cuts. I have spoken at many events which have been well attended by lots of different members of trade unions including ours. Some of the functions I attended are ‘Stop the Cuts’ in London and in Manchester. The ‘Coalition of Resistance’ to the cuts, which was a rally opposite Downing Street along with a demonstration at the Conservative Party Conference. I am also aware that executive members have attended other functions around the country. Our members in Scotland attended a rally in Edinburgh whilst members in England and Wales attended a rally organised by the TUC at the Methodist Hall. I realise members spare time is crucial to them but we will need to step up the pace going into the New Year to protect our jobs and maintain our health & safety.

The more members that become involved in the campaigns the better chance we will have at convincing this Coalition Government they have got it wrong.

I wish the POA membership and their families a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

 

Steve Gillan
General Secretary